Then she dived deeply under the dark waters, rising and falling with the roiling waves,
till at length she managed to reach the young prince, who was fast losing the power of swimming in that
stormy sea. His limbs were failing him, his beautiful eyes were closed, and he would have died
had not the little mermaid come to his assistance. She held his head above the water
and let the waves drift them where they would.
Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid
Kate takes a deep breath and flattens her palms against the doorframe. She's prepared to wait. As long as it takes. He waited three months and still took her back. She owes him at least that much.
(She should have known immediately. Should have realized what happened the moment he walked into the precinct and looked through her instead of at her.)
It feels like an eternity – it's only a minute, really – before she hears a creak, feels the floorboards shift, and then (her heart pounds) footsteps. There's a second of silence. And then the door opens.
She looks up at him, her chest twisted in knots, and all her words disappear. He looks tortured. His face lined with exhaustion. And his eyes – Kate swallows. His eyes are dark, intense, burning. He's being careful.
(But he opened the door. He listened to her words and he opened the door.)
He watches her for a long moment before he speaks. "Why did you come here, Kate?"
Her lungs start to work again.
"Because I love you." The words slip out now, but they're still new enough that they make her mouth shiver deliciously, her tongue buzzing like she's licked a battery. "And I should have told you a long time ago. I'm sorry."
His whole posture changes. His shoulders smooth, his hand on the doorframe unclenching. "Say it again."
She lets out a breath. "I love you." His shoulders slump, all the air rushes out of him, and she can't stop saying it, seeing the pain draining from his face. "I love you, Castle, I l-"
He swallows her words in a kiss that's more desperate than tender, more direct than soft. His hands come to her face and she melts against him. He's strong and warm and possessive and sure and he loves her.
And now she lets him.
When he lets her go she's embarrassed to feel her eyes stinging, her cheeks wet. He wipes away the tears that escaped, pressing his forehead to hers. "You know I love you. You know what I want."
"I don't think I could ever be more sure, Castle."
(She's already fairly sure he's the one. For all of forever.)
Kate stretches on her toes and kisses him again, pulls him against the lines of her body, breathes his air. He presses her back against the frame of the doorway and she arches against him. His hands slide over her waist, trace her back, tangle in her hair, sending tingles dancing through her skin.
He takes her hands and pulls her with him into his bedroom, brings her inside, and shuts the door behind them.